Movie review: "In the City of Sylvia"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A deft shove against the predominant, codified style of quick cuts and three-act plots, Jose Luis Guerin's In the City of Sylvia presents a series of long, dialogue-free scenes of a handsome young artist drawn to the site of a past romantic encounter.

Dialogue is as sparse as plot as the nameless man (Xavier Lafitte) spends the first few minutes of the film in his Strasbourg hotel, staring intensely into space or scribbling quickly in his sketchbook. Moving to an outdoor cafe, his eyes follow an assortment of beautiful women drinking and talking, but his body follows only one - a brunette in red who he believes is Sylvia, the woman he's looking for. He embarks on a winding cat-and-mouse chase that leads to an anticlimactic encounter.

Past the flimsy story, there's substance in Guerin's rumination on active voyeurism. His meticulous approach brings the city to life in a way in which even the graffiti speaks of love, and separate cafe tables and conversations are cleverly composed and compressed into one.

But as it progresses and you notice that none of the women in the artist's sketchbook have faces, what at first seemed romantic feels too calculated, also a little creepy and objectifying. Sure, you see through the artist's eyes, but you learn little of what's in his heart.

"In the City of Sylvia"

Screens April 24-25 at the Wexner Center Film/Video Theatre

Grade: B